Romancing the Customer: 5 Ways to Keep Long-Term Customer Relationships Alive

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The purpose of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by giving them exactly what they want—when they want it. You romance your prospects by providing the information they need, then building trust over time, so they’re inspired to do business with you. You win them over with your expertise, knowledge and helpfulness.

After putting in all that work to build those long-term customer relationships, don’t spoil it by taking your loyal customers for granted. Here’s how to keep the romance alive…

1. Anticipate Their Needs

The secret to knowing what your customers need before they know they need it is a matter of understanding their buying habits. Tailor your gifts—discounts and special offers—to match what they want, and not what you want them to buy.

It may work to put overstock on sale if you’re a grocery store…you can usually count on impulse buys. But online customers are carefully researching which businesses they engage with. They’re more likely to continue to buy from you if you’re offering exactly what they’re looking for.

How to Know What Your Customers Want and Need:

  • Listen to their questions and comments – ask for feedback. Ask how you can improve, what products they would like you to offer, and what they’d like to see from you. Find out what gives them trouble…and fix it.
  • Analyze buying patterns – it’s no accident Amazon shows you what other customers have purchased alongside the items you’re considering. Suggestive selling works, especially when there’s a social component.
  • Harness social proof – keep an eye on industry information shared on social media. If your customers are mentioning you and sharing your content regularly, you’re doing a great job. If they’re sharing information published by your competitors, they’ve lost interest.

2. Don’t Take Them for Granted

Keeping their interest alive for the long term requires relationship maintenance. Just like any long-term relationship: you need to show you care by doing something special. Remember their birthdays, surprise them with unexpected gifts, and delight them with exclusive offers, upgrades, or new products you know they’ll love.

3. Be Unpredictably Predictable

Consistency is great customer service. Delivering the excellent service your customers expect is essential to keeping their attention, but you also need to surprise them now and then with something unexpected.

Flowers and candy on every birthday or anniversary are nice, don’t get me wrong, but knowing exactly what’s going to happen can get pretty dull. Don’t fall into an advertising rut. Shake things up with something entirely new, like a contest with a big prize or a 10-year anniversary dinner for your biggest customers.

4. Show Them a Different Side of You

You’re cultivating a nice reputation: you’re knowledgeable, reliable, and consistent; a good provider. Use your social media and your blog to invite your customers into your processes. Show them your innovative side, your creative ideas, and your vision for the future.

5. Value Their Opinions

A partnership should never be a one-way conversation. Ask your customers for their opinions and act on their suggestions. Everyone hates being ignored. Ask for honest opinions and ideas, and incorporate the smartest and most popular answers into new offerings, customer service protocols, and service updates.

It’s always good to remember that, whether you’re dealing with consumers or business buyers, you’re in a relationship with a human being. Like every long-term relationship partner, your customers need to be nurtured, wined, and dined with appreciation, fresh content, and new ideas. Your ability to please depends heavily on how well you really know your customers.

 

Want to learn more about nurturing your customer relationships over the long term? Download this FREE guide: Side Door Thinking for more information about how you can use content marketing to build customer loyalty.

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
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Your Content Marketing IS Your Brand: Here’s Why…

Back in 2009-2010, Toyota spiraled into what was the largest car recall in United States history, eventually recalling a total of 9 million vehicles worldwide. The recalls were the result of mechanical problems that caused unintended acceleration, leading to a number of preventable accidents and even several deaths.

Your Content Marketing IS Your Brand: Here’s Why…But by 2014, Toyota had regained its image, topping the charts at #1 in brand perception according to the 2014 Car-Brand Perception Survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. And this is despite the fact that Quality (90%) and Safety (88%) were rated as the top 2 most important factors when buying a new car.

*record scratch*
Wait, what?!

Content Creates Public Perception
Today, branding is so much more than an image or slogan. Thanks to the Internet, today’s consumers have the ability to go much deeper into a company’s brand. Consumers want to know who your company is, whether your company aligns with their core values, how you treat your employees…and most importantly in the case of Toyota: how you respond to customer complaints.

To even begin rebuilding what was arguably now completely shattered consumer confidence, Toyota took to social media, creating content on Facebook and Twitter to inform nervous consumers about the situation. They even put on a Digg Dialog with then President and Chief Operating Officer of Toyota Motor Sales (USA), Jim Lentz.

Toyota also created an online recall hub for consumers, where they honestly and transparently helped customers navigate fact from fiction amidst the media frenzy surrounding the recall. On top of that, they launched “Auto-Biography” on Facebook, amassing over 5,400 positive Toyota ownership stories from loyal fans in just one month. …and this was just the beginning of Toyota’s massive comeback to win over consumers and put the past behind them.

 

So you’re not Toyota. That doesn’t mean you can’t apply these same ideas to boost your brand appeal (scandal or not)—even in B2B.

 

Your Customers Define Your Brand
Modern branding is public perception. You can meet or exceed customer expectations, or you can fail both yourself and your customers by not living up to your reputation. Today, your image is controlled by: 1. The content you put out there, and 2.) How your customers respond to your brand. Companies are expected to engage on every level, and even B2B buying decisions are based on trust relationships built over time.

Major brands understand this, and you’ll find them on every channel, trying with various levels of success to establish their companies as caring, humane brands encouraging you to have fun, spread the love, be healthy, be brave, and live life to the fullest.

The message has shifted from “we’re awesome” to “you’re awesome and we can help you be more awesome.”

Getting There: Building Your Brand Strategy
Developing consistent content with the power to convince and convert isn’t easy. It takes commitment and patience—but it’s worth it: your content marketing is your brand. Effective content marketing depends on your ability to convey your company’s authenticity, expertise, and guiding principles. If you weave a richly detailed tapestry of worth, you build trust and customer engagement.

To build an effective content marketing strategy, focus on your target market: answer their needs and address their pain points. If you’ve taken the time to get to know your customers, you know just what they want to hear from you. If your content strategy drives engagement and engagement results in more sales, you’ll know your strategy is on the money.

B2B companies (especially those with smaller budgets) are advised to work from a place of truth. Discover what your customers want you to be…and then be that. Sincerely. You’ll cultivate an emotional connection with your customers and your great content will make your brand shine.

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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Content marketing IS your brand. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how you can use storytelling as part of an effective marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource

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4 Ways Small B2B Businesses Can Nab More Sales

Small B2B businesses face complex problems in today’s marketplace. You’re dealing with stiff competition from global importers who drive down prices and, at the same time, trying to get a foothold in an industry full of well-established and anchored domestic competitors. If you can’t offer the lowest prices or the lightning-fast service of big, high-volume operations, how will you compete?

Every B2B small business can carve out a niche, even in tough industries. It’s just a matter of finding what resonates with your customers—then making that bit of gold work for you—so you can nab more sales and grow your B2B business.

#1. Find Your Shine—and Share It
Consider what you have to offer and define what makes you stand out. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can craft your corporate image, branding and marketing in an honest and unique way your customers will love.

Remember that old Avis campaign? “We’re number two, so we try harder.” It worked because of its fresh and honest approach, not to mention its hardworking appeal to the average American—their customers could relate, and gaining that ground was worth millions.

If you’re an SMB, you may never be #1, but you are most certainly unique. You’re not trapped in layers of corporate hierarchy, so find your angle and own it. Show your customers what you’re passionate about. Be fresh. Be honest. Drive your point home.

4 Ways Small B2B Businesses Can Nab More Sales: Advertising Greatness: Avis Car Rental, Circa 1962

Maybe you can’t deliver tomorrow, and maybe you can’t offer the lowest prices on the market. Those are powerful incentives…but not necessarily as compelling as other things you can offer that giant “faceless” companies simply can’t match.

Here are a few areas where smaller B2B companies can deliver more—and shine:

  • Share your expertise. Make knowledge your top selling point by hiring and training well-qualified employees and giving them enough autonomy to address each customer’s problem on a personal level. Your people should be able to listen and respond with real solutions, not canned responses.
  • Focus on quality. Your customers want to feel valued. Stress the importance of custom solutions built from the ground up. Build your reputation on precision and quality construction and/or service. Small businesses have a reputation for caring more about their customers. Capitalize on that feel-good feature.
  • Cut out the middleman. If you can cut costs by, for example, shipping directly to your customers, consider doing it. If you can offer your B2B services without relying on a third party, consider going for it. Distribution channels add costs you may be able to eliminate…thus lowering costs without lowering quality.

#2. Bring Your Team Together—and Collaborate
After you’ve defined your best selling points, you need an actionable plan to build your brand story and establish your corporate culture. It must be a top-to-bottom marketing solution with every member of your team on board. Management, marketing, sales, product experts, and customer service reps should all be in the know and ready to go.

To put your vision to work, sales and marketing need to coordinate and collaborate. Marketing needs to know how to identify hot leads and sales needs to follow up every step of the way. Treat your existing customers like the old friends they are and offer support and information no matter where they are in the buying cycle. Give your team the tools and information they need to succeed.

harnessed pop culture while addressing a common IT concern: it 4 Ways Small B2B Businesses Can Nab More Sales *Great example: This company compared “moving to the cloud” to surviving a zombie apocalypse.

#3. Keep the Content Flowing—and Connect
Fresh, informational website content will help keep your existing customers engaged while helping you sell to new customers. Tailor all your content marketing efforts to address specific needs within your customer’s industry. What are your top 10 customer FAQs? Be sure your website content points your customers straight to helpful, informative answers.

Visual presentations, recent testimonials, detailed case studies and industry-specific product and services comparisons can help you communicate your value to potential B2B customers. Appealing content includes slideshows, photos, and even video—not just endless streams of text. Your customers deserve better. If your customers need technical specs, present them in a fact sheet with easy-to-scan bullet points, instead of a headache-inducing jungle of words.

#4. Get Clever—and WIN
Sungard AS won big a couple years back with a clever marketing ploy. They did something pretty unusual in B2B…created an infographic that harnessed pop culture while addressing a common IT concern: it compared “moving to the cloud” to surviving a zombie apocalypse. Yes, you read that right. The infographic went viral, and Sungard ran with the concept, building out more zombie-themed informational content. And guess what? Yep, their target market LOVED it.

You’ll close more deals if you work to understand both why your business is unique and how you can best meet and exceed your customers’ needs. Pinpoint your customers’ pain points and create targeted content to draw in new customers and keep your existing customers happy. Answering your customers’ and prospects’ questions and concerns while educating them about your small B2B venture—now that’s always win-win. Tie it all together, collaborate and get creative and you’ll nab more sales than ever.

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Additional Resources

Manufacturer’s Guide to Attracting More Customers: How Top Manufacturers Are Driving New Revenue By Attracting More CustomersCheck out these five case studies to learn replicable marketing strategies from leading B2B manufacturers. No matter what industry you’re in, the competition is heating up. Traditional marketing methods simply aren’t enough anymore.

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Get this step-by-step guide for creating a workable content and social marketing strategy for your B2B enterprise — Get ahead of the curve.

10 Paths to Outstanding Content Marketing

Content is the beating heart of communication with your customers and prospects—but sometimes the process can feel like a maze to navigate. Are you stuck at a fork in the road, not sure where to tread to create great content? From business blog posts to tiny tweets to comprehensive eBooks, if you want your customers to engage, share, and come back for more, your content needs to be compelling, current, and relevant to your industry and your audience.

No matter the road they take to get there—email marketing, web browsing, or social media—your content is what people see, share, and talk about. Great content drives traffic and creates buzz.

In a market drowning in information, how can you be sure you create a clear path to valuable content that your target market actually wants to experience?

Are you stuck at a fork in the road, not sure where to tread to create great content? Check out: 10 Paths to Outstanding Content Marketing

1. Stop overpublishing. Flooding your site with slapdash blog posts every day is not a substitute for quality and depth. Far too many businesses are cranking out shallow, self-indulgent blog posts without regard to quality—and they’re calling it content when it’s really just filler.

2. Address your FAQs. The best content answers your customers’ questions. It’s that simple. Provide your customers (and potential customers) with the info they want to know.

3. Narrow your focus. Some businesses indulge in scattershot content: linkbait, outrageous opinions—literally anything that might bring people to their site. You might attract traffic that way, but your conversions will be low. Be an expert—no, be THE expert—on your industry and on what your customers want to learn.

4. Consider the lifecycle of your customer relationship. Leads and customers will be at different stages of the Growth Cycle Marketing process when they experience your content. You’ll want to address customer questions at every stage in the buy cycle to successfully engage with that customer before, during and after the sale. Your existing customers are valuable, so be sure you continue to offer them new and interesting content. To better understand the Growth Cycle Marketing process, download our free guide.

5. Don’t worry about undermining your business. If you’re familiar with the “Nailed It!” meme, you know that sharing your recipe for success won’t hurt your business. Amateurs can’t do what you do—so don’t be afraid to show your stuff.

6. Make it portable. Always include buttons for easy sharing, tweeting, or embedding. If your content is good enough to share, make it easy to do so.

7. Make it diverse. Think of all the cool content formats you can create—short-form info bites, long-form whitepapers, videos, photos, reposts from other businesses and from your customers, case studies, infographics—the works. You have to think in 3D color, tone, and style to cast a wider net and attract more customers.

Side Door Thinking: Stop Knocking on the Front Door of Your Customer’s Mind When the Side Door Is Wide Open8. Hire professionals. Crafting your voice in writing or designing awesome graphics requires a specific and trained skill set. If you already have a frustrated writer with mad skills on board, great! If not, find a professional. Poorly written content with haphazard clipart makes you look unprofessional—and that’s really bad for business.

9. Forget ABC. Don’t confuse content for copy. “Always Be Closing” might work for Phil Dunphy, but it’s through the side door on the web. Stick with the 80/20 rule. 80% of your content should inform, engage, and entertain. 20% should sell in a direct manner. We suggest 20% or less for best results.

What is Marketing’s Impact on Innovation for Growth? Download this Free White Paper on Growth Cycle Marketing

10. Track your results. What good is great content if you don’t know how well it works? By tracking your pageviews, clickthroughs, and conversions, you can measure how your customers are responding to your content and use that information to provide more of what they like best.

Creating successful content requires talent, expertise, understanding your customer needs and wants, a comprehensive content strategy, and sometimes a little luck. The key is to start with your customers in mind and work from there. Keep your customers top of mind and you’ll make your own way down the path that leads to content marketing success.